Re-live Lokmanya's Ganpati celebrations

Dadarcha Raja will recreate city’s first Ganesh celebration held in 1893 at Girgaum chawl

Most Mumbaikars know of the first Ganpati mandal, that of Keshavji Naik Chawl, to have started the tradition of Ganesh utsav in the city.

Vikrant Salaskar before a statue of Lokmanya Tilak carrying a Ganesha idol.
Vikrant Salaskar before a statue of Lokmanya Tilak carrying a Ganesha idol. PIC/PRADEEP DHIVAR

To acquaint the youth with its history, the Vitthalwadi Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav Mandal has themed its pandal after the chawl. The set decorations will show Lokmaya Tilak carrying the a Ganpati statue towards the chawl, thus recreating the first ever Ganesh celebration held more than a century ago.

The Vitthalwadi Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav Mandal in Dadar was formed in 1939 and its idol has been termed Dadar Cha Raja. The mandal has its pandal near Plaza Cinema every year, and thousands flock to it to take a look at their unique Ganpati decorations. The first celebration at Girgaum’s Keshavji Naik Chawl was held in 1893, where Tilak reportedly came to grace the occasion. The chawl, too, is celebrating its 122nd Ganesh utsav this year.

“The objective is to show the changing nature of the festival — Ganesh utsav, then and now,” said Deepak Tarkar, chief of the festival committee. “These days, people question the necessity of a public celebration. But, by narrating its history, we want to tell them what a great role it played in the freedom struggle, and why it is still relevant. The festival is a way of bringing people together; it binds our social ethos.”

The pandal’s gate will have two 22-feet idols of Shivaji and Lokmanya Tilak, with a symbolic Ganesh idol in Tilak’s hands.

Another 35-feet paper idol of Tilak will be placed near Plaza Cinema. The idol is being made by 17-year-old city student, Vikrant Salaskar, out of waste-paper.

Once inside the pandal, all of Keshavji Naik Chawl will come alive for onlookers. Set in the 1890s, the chawl will depict the public celebrations then, which were a far cry from the glossy, commercial celebrations of today. At its center, will be the main, nine-feet idol, made of clay.

The mandal has planned an audio-visual show that will discuss social ills, including corruption.

The cost of the pandal is estimated at Rs 2 lakh.

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